All over the world, from Florida to Thailand, efforts are underway to restore mangrove forests. These ecosystem have been in serious decline for the last 10 years, and sea level rise is set to threaten them further. In Hawaii, however, heavy efforts are underway to eradicate the trees. In fact, the islands might be the only place where ecologists are trying to permanently remove mangroves. They’re invasive here-and they’re pushing out native flora and fauna that have called these islands home for much longer than the mangrove has. Seeing the towering trees along the eastern coast of Oahu in He’eia, Hawaii, for the first time, was an awe-inspiring experience. While the tallest mangroves exist in the African country of Gabon and along the Pacific coast of Colombia, Hawaii’s red mangroves are definitely impressive. But that doesn’t mean that the mangroves belong there. In fact, these trees came over in the early 1900s with the sugar industry, which hoped they’d help retain sediment during the heavy rains. Sediment retention is kind of the mangroves’ thing elsewhere, but that hasn’t necessarily been the case in Hawaii. Some research has shown that in the Hawaiian ecosystem, the trees function differently, sometimes even releasing additional sediment into the water, said Rob Toonen, a researcher at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, to Earther. “The belief that they are helping to trap sediments is simply that: a belief and not a fact,” said Toonen in an email. Now, the trees dominate the ecosystem in this… [Read full story]
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